A Perfect Sunday

It’s a gorgeous day to be alive, and for once all my work is done and I’m free to do whatever my heart desires.  As I write I’m sitting in my backyard, enjoying the view of the garden tended by my husband to attract bees for the vegetables he’s growing below.


I started the morning off with my reading from The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.  It’s a blessing to read her book each morning; at least for a few minutes upon waking I feel all’s right with the world and my place in it.  One day I’ll hopefully remember to return for the mid-day reading to get back on track, and close each day with the Vespers reading.  So far I’ve been good about remembering every morning, terrible and rarely remember to read in mid-day and remember the evening prayer about half the time.  Something’s better than nothing!


After my healthy morning shake (a carrot, celery, cucumber, kale, protein power, flaxseed, strawberries, blueberries and half a banana with 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice and a teaspoon of vegetable juice) and a quick glance at the paper (which doesn’t take long given how small even the Sunday edition has become) I headed out to Meadowbrook Middle School where my church was holding a “Love Your City” day.

Today, instead of doing the normal Sunday church thing, we closed the church doors and instead went out into our community to make a practical impact and, hopefully, reveal that our faith makes a difference in the here and now.  We painted benches, planted a hillside, packed school supplies, and  cleaned lockers — my job.

Some of the lockers were merely dusty, others were caked with months-old soda spills and many had been taken over by spiders.  By the end of the morning I was feeling nausous from the cleaning solution and spider combination but I was also happy that I’d been able to help make the middle schooler’s day a little better when they first open their locker.  I know how nervous I was when my first child first set off for middle school, a little boy entering a scary new world, and would not have wanted him to open the locker to put in his books only to discover sticky stains left over from the occupants from the year before.

So, my good deed for the day done, and having finished my left-over work yesterday, I have been able to completely enjoy my afternoon, guilt-free.  I finished one book and started another and have been researching my trip to France planned for early October in the Dordogne.  I often fantasize about spending months or even a year or two living in France, or Italy, or England, or … pretty much anywhere in Europe.  In fact I’ve been dreaming of living in Europe since I was six or seven years old, and I hope to find a way to retire early so that I can at least spend a few months at a time over there.

But on days like today, I remind myself how good I have it right here in Poway, California.  Perfect weather, shady live oaks filled with the sounds of birds, a creek meandering through the back yard, and fresh veggies and fruits courtesy of my husband’s new-found love of gardening.  Today I’m grateful to be here, enjoying a beautiful day with a great book, my daughter home from college and nothing so urgent on my “to do” list that it can’t wait.  It doesn’t happen often, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can!



A Hidden Treasure in Southern Italy

If you’re ever on your way from Rome to the Amalfi coast, don’t miss a detour to Old Capua. Research and reading about ancient Rome as I prepared for my first trip to Italy I fell in love with Julius Caesar and Cicero and, in general, with ancient Rome. Many of the books written about that time mentioned Capua in one context or another, as it was home to gladiatorial combats and a famous gladiator school, and it was from this area that Spartacus came, back in 73 BC. The gate by which the Via Appia leaves Rome is even known as Porta Capena, as it leads to Capua.

When we told the Italian driver taking us from the Amalfi Coast to Rome that we wanted to detour to Capua, he thought we were crazy. “All my 17 years of driving people no one has ever asked me to take them to Capua,” he said. “Capua? Are you sure?” Assured that we did indeed want to pass by his suggested itinerary and go to Capua instead, he drove us up to the Santa Maria Capua Vetere amphitheatre, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Santa Maria Capua Vetere amphiteatre

It cost a whole 2 euros to get in, and the old Italians in the ticket office were dismayed that there were two more of us visiting that day — they’d already sold tickets to at least 10 people, and couldn’t believe the crowd! While we were there we saw only two other visitors, and we were free to wander throughout the grounds to come and go as we wished. Which was great, but depressing as we thought about how this treasure was open to the elements and the whims of the visitors and lay unprotected. But the freedom to explore not only the upper seating levels but also to go underground in the passages where the gladiators waited their turn was fascinating and a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

I stood by myself underneath the amphitheater stage and imagined what it must have been like. As I closed my eyes to soak up the feeling birds started flying about and making mournful songs, as if the souls of the long-dead gladiators were speaking.

After exploring the subterranean passages and wandering the grounds, we visited the on-site Gladiator Museum, which had no English signs and was pretty hokey, but worth a quick visit. After wandering the grounds we returned to the ticket office and asked about the Mithraeum, which I thought was on the grounds, perhaps under the amphitheater. Our driver asked the man at the ticket office about it, and after an exchange in Italian none of which I could understand, the man closed the ticket office and headed to his car. We followed in our car, not sure what was going on. After a short drive into the town, the man parked the car near what seemed to be some old apartment buildings, opened a door in the wall and motioned for us to go inside.

We entered a small cave-like room with stairs. My husband and I started walking down, not sure where we were going or what we would see. After going down to the bottom level and turning the corner we saw a beautiful albeit faded fresco with faded but beautiful blue and red stars along the stuccoed side walls and a fresco in the center. The beautiful sanctuary dedicated to Mithras was discovered in 1922, and is believed to date from the 2nd century BC. It was small and there wasn’t much to see, but just the experience of being by ourselves in this ancient place of worship (it was used by followers of the mystery religion of Mithraism) was an amazing experience, and all for the price of 2 euros.

It helps if you speak Italian or have someone who can translate for you as the people who work there don’t seem to speak English, and there are no signs in English, but even without that it’s definitely worth an off-the-beaten-path visit.

Sardines, with Passion

I’ve been to Cannery Row in Monterey, California a few time, wandering among the shops and restaurants and breathing in the atmosphere as it must have been years ago when it inspired Steinbeck’s writings. But today, with my parents visiting the area for the first time, I checked TripAdvisor.com to review the “Things to Do” and see what my diverse group of folks might find interesting. Ranked third was Tim Sardine’s Cannery Row tour so, on a whim, I called to see if there was still space available. Tim Sardine’s Cannery Row tour Even though he hadn’t been planning on giving the scheduled 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. tour today, when he heard how much we wanted to do the walk he graciously re-arranged his schedule to accommodate us. And I’m so glad he did.

Tim is passionate about Monterey’s history, its waterfront and its people and it’s hard to think that there could be anything about the area — at least its fishing heritage — that he doesn’t know. He met us at The Clement Hotel at noon (which, by the way, has a gorgeous lobby and adjoining outdoor deck with beautiful views of the ocean) and, although we didn’t walk more than a mile from start to finish, dug deep into the history of Cannery Row, illustrated by fake sardines, the real key to a lock associated with the railroad and railroad tracks that brought the San Francisco market closer to the Monterey fisherman, goggles worn by the Japanese abalone fisherman in the early part of the last century, and other artifacts that brought the history to life for us.

He told of the special whistles each cannery blew when the sardines were in, bringing the employees of that cannery running from their beds, down the hill to the cannery prepared to work in up to a foot of water at backbreaking jobs that didn’t stop until the fish were all canned, since there was no refrigeration. He told the story of a man that first changed the cooking method from one using oil to one using steam, and how he ended up canning money in the middle of the night before fleeing to Mexico to escape the IRS. And the story of the Japanese man who noticed no one was diving for the masses of abalone that carpeted the ocean bottom, bringing Japanese divers that were shocked by the chill of water 15 degrees cooler than they had expected and forced to pull apart wool sweaters to create layers of underwear to add to their traditional diving attire. At first they sent the abalone back to Japan, where there was a big market for it. Once that was banned, however, a German chief by the name of “Pop” Ernest Doelter aka The Abalone King experimented until he invented a recipe for the abalone that turned the dish from one resembling a rubber boot to one that inspired poetry, including the verse:

“Oh, some folks boast of quail and toast
Because they think it’s tony;
But I’m content to owe my rent
And live on abalone.”

After 2-1/2 hours Tim still had a half-hour of material left to share, but we needed to get on the road to our next adventure. He left us with some souvenirs of our day to remember him by, memories of a perfect afternoon in Monterey, and a College-level course level of information on Monterey fishing.

Even if you have no interest in sardines or fishing or history, just being around someone with such knowledge and passion for his subject makes the afternoon worthwhile. One of my favorite ways to enrich my life is to spend time with people who are authentic, who love what they do, and who love to share it with others. No one exemplifies that more than Tim in his waterfront tour.


God Will Provide


I’ve lost my energy and passion for the work that consumes most of my life; instead I stay at it out of convenience and fear and a sense of responsibility to my family and co-workers and not having a clear idea of what to do next — what is my passion?

I search for the aspects of my day that energize me and make me feel alive and as if I’m contributing but haven’t been able to translate those bits and pieces into a plan that looks like a career path I can head down.

And thinking about my income going away scares me and my family, who count on it to help pay the mortgage and the college tuition and the grocery bill and … well, you get the picture.

I’ve started in the month of June to read the prayers and readings from The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle, and it’s a beautiful way to start each morning. This morning it turns out I actually accidentally read ahead, what I shouldn’t be reading until June 22, but it turned out to be the perfect reading for me.

Taken from Luke 12:22-31, it goes like this:

This is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no store houses and no barns; yet God feeds them.

And how much more are you worth than the birds!


Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest? Think how the flowers grow; they never have to spin or weave; yet, I assure you not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of them.


Now if that is how God clothes a flower which is growing wild today and is thrown in the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he look after you, who have so little faith! But you must not set your hearts on things to eat and things to drink; nor must you worry. … Your Father knows well you need them. No, set your heats on his kingdom, and these other things will be given you as well.

(The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime at 103).

It reminds me that if I truly want to find what God wove me together to do, then by focusing more on strengthening my relationship with Him, and on truly loving everyone and actively living that love, all will fall into place. Why is letting go and loving so perfect and yet so darn hard?

So my prayer for today is to free myself to fly like the raven, and beautify the world like the wildflowers that sprout untended in the fields, by pouring out my love freely and worrying less about myself and trusting more.